wornmagazine washington, dc
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ISSUE NO. 5 2013 spring/summer 2013
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Worn Magazine is a D.C.-based publication intended to bring greater awareness of fashion and art to the District and to the world. The photographs you see on these pages were shot by local photographers using clothing from local shops and designers at locations right here in our neighborhoods. They are evidence of what local talent can create and they represent our vision of the future of Washington, D.C.
Check us out at wornmagazine.com
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THE DREAM ISSUE Contributors
Itâ€™s In My Nature
In The Midst
Take Me Home
A Hint of Hell and the Pursuit of Paradise
The Invisible Man
A Coffee Dream
Live Free or Try
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THE DREAM ISSUE Featured writing and photography submissions by:
MEREDITH RIZZO DAKOTA FINE EMMA McALARY CALEB LOGAN MICAH GREENBERG KANDACE BANKS
THANK YOU to Anastasia Thomas for being there every day rain or shine through it all, to Micah Greenberg for being by my side until the very last hour, Gaby Cetrulo for braving bitter cold for the sake of art, Nandor Mitrocsak, Wilmer Wilson IV, Kota Eberhardt for flying across the country to be in this issue, Dakota Fine, Morgan West, Kandace Banks, Joshua Yospyn, Jim Darling, Beth Silverberg, Amber Mahoney, Alexander Chang, Sarah Scully, Courtney M. McSwain, Joshua Young, Emma McAlary, Cameron Archer, Meredith Rizzo, Rex Riot, Naheesah Dudley, Skyler Javier, Eric Schulze, Crystal Vanderweit, Caleb Logan, Che Nembhard, Holley Simmons, Ryan Hansan, Elise Whang, Vera Wen, Alicia Cosnahan and Fancy Pants, Amalgamated, Barneyâ€™s New York CO-OP Georgetown, Violet Boutique, Paul Simkin and Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts, Erin Schaff, Theo Adamstein and FotoDC, Young Frankk, Peter Corbett, Michael Clements, Jayne Sandman, Michael Lastoria, Andrew Nguyen, Annalisa Meyer and Artisphere, M. Gert Barkovic, The W Salon, Souny West, Maimah Karmo, Lindsey Mask, Ari and Darren Norris, Eric Brewer, Richard Rached, Martin Swift, Donald Ely, Otessa Ghadar, Sarah Walker, Avi Gupta, Jordan Michael Smith, Jason Orfanon, and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Write to us at email@example.com To buy back-issues visit wornmagazine.com/purchase WORN CREATIVE is a boutique creative agency born from Worn Magazine that turns ideas into visually engaging content. See our work at worncreative.com WORN ABROAD is an online shop curated by Worn Magazine, featuring clothing and accessories for men and women inspired by international street style. Shop at wornabroad.com
wornmagazine washington, dc
THE TRANSPORT ISSUE
ISSUE NO. 4 2012 Fall/Winter 2012/2013
wornmagazine.com Photography by Nicole Aguirre
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ast year in Paris I visited the grave of Oscar Wilde at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Written in marker on the glass case enclosing his tomb was Wilde’s quote, “An idea that is not dangerous is no idea at all.” To me a dream is the most powerful kind of idea, an idea we can’t ignore. This issue of the magazine is dedicated to all of those who chase after their dreams with wild abandon despite every voice and reason to the contrary. Just as important as our successes are to the stories of our lives are the challenges we face. The journey we take in pursuit of a dream is messy, winding, and often unclear. It’s deeply satisfying because it’s difficult. I wanted this issue to reflect the many twists and turns of that reality, not just the happy ending. The stories on these pages give a very personal glimpse into the work and lives of some of the most inspiring individuals changing the face of D.C. – artists and writers, scientists and entrepreneurs. For all of them, this city is or has been their home and their source of inspiration, and they’ve been an inspiration to me. This last year has been a landmark year for me personally, and for the whole Worn team. Since May of 2012, we’ve put out two issues of Worn Magazine (this one included) and we’ve launched two new companies. With our new creative agency, Worn Creative, we’re excited to spend even more of our time doing what we love – from photography and styling, to guerilla marketing and special events – and supporting as many working artists and local companies as we can in the process. It’s a dream come true to publish this magazine, and it’s a dream so many people have made possible. This issue came together through the talents of more than two dozen individuals who generously donated their time and their talents because they believe in the mission of this magazine: to support a creative culture in Washington that reflects the city’s diversity and potential. I appreciate every single one of you and thank you for supporting my dream. I hope I have the chance to return the favor.
Photo by Eric Brewer
Nicole Aguirre, Editor-in-Chief
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CONTRIBUTORS Meet the D.C.-based talent behind the Dream Issue
Nicole Aguirre, Editor-in-Chief & Photographer Twitter/Instagram @wornmagazine
Joshua Yospyn, Photographer Twitter @yospyn Instagram @yospyn2
Beth Silverberg, Stylist & Jewelry Designer Twitter/Instagram @bethlaurenjewel
Courtney M. McSwain, Writer Twitter/Instagram @courtneymcswain
Alexander Chang, Copy Editor Instagram @minkuchang
Sarah Scully, Writer Twitter/Instagram @SarahE_Scully
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Crystal Vanderweit, Photographer Twitter/Instagram @itscrystal
Jim Darling, Photographer Twitter @Mr_Darling Instagram @mrdarling
Amber Byrne Mahoney, Photographer Twitter/Instagram @liveitoutphoto ambermahoney.com
Holley Simmons, Writer Twitter @HolleyUnedited Instagram @holleysimmons
Che Nembhard, Intern & Photo Assistant Twitter @supremedreamz Instagram @mindofmymind
Anastasia Thomas, Editorial Assistant Twitter @Ana_Apollonia Instagram @AnastasiaAntoinette
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Fancy Pants, DECOYâ€™s long-haired, curly-haired guinea pig celebrates Easter on P St. NW. Photo by Nicole Aguirre
Spotted on the streets of Washington, D.C. wornmagazine.com
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Joshua at the Rhode Island Ave. skate park on Inauguration Day 2013. Photo by Nicole Aguirre Elodie takes a break on 18th St. NW. Photography by Emma spring/summer 2013 Askins.
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M.C. Wolfe, lead singer of Dance for the Dying, on 18th St. NW. Photo by Emma McAlary
Joshua Young at the Rhode Island skate park on Inauguration Day 2013
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Emily on the first sunny day of spring in Logan Circle. Photo by Nicole Aguirre 75247_WornMag.indd 11
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photography by joshua yospyn 5/2/13 11:12 AM
profile: cameron archer owner and designer- saint clair jewelry
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DREAMERS What do an electronic musician, jazz singer, firefighter, model, boxer & biologist all have in common?
They donâ€™t just dream. They do. Photography by Nicole Aguirre & Jim Darling Writing by Courtney M. McSwain & Nicole Aguirre
Left: Kota Eberhardt. Photography by Nicole Aguirre Photography studios courtesy of Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts
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NAHEESAH DUDLEY High School Student & Olympic Hopeful
n some ways, Naheesah Dudley is your typical, wellrounded high school junior. She comes home every day at 4 o’clock, does her homework and has something to eat. She spends time with her friends, who are so tight they call themselves “the wolf pack.” At school, she excels in science and likes to explore creative interests like fashion, art, architecture, music and poetry. But here’s the thing: Naheesah Dudley is not your typical high school junior. This 5’1”, 17-year-old girl is gunning for Olympic gold – in boxing. For Dudley, boxing is in her blood. Growing up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., Dudley made frequent visits to Plainfield, NJ, where her grandfather Harold Salter lives, and was exposed to the world of boxing early on. Salter, who now trains young athletes in boxing, was a competitor at the amateur level and almost made it to the pros before he “messed it up,” as Dudley describes it. Unsure of exactly what took her grandfather out of the ring, Dudley says he frequently talks about his glory days and has an added level of excitement now that his granddaughter has decided to follow in his footsteps. It was her grandfather who first inspired Dudley’s interest in the sport when he took her and her cousin to a boxing gym. As Dudley describes it, her passion literally punched her in the face. In Dudley’s first sparring match, “we went in the ring in this nasty-looking basement,” Dudley says. “I was a little scared because my cousin was bigger than me. We went in the ring and she hit me in the face. My nose and eyes started watering. After that, I was like I have to get revenge … and that really sparked everything. Ever since then, I was like, ‘I have to box.’” Dudley was addicted to the adrenaline of boxing, but it became something larger. She found a role model. As Dudley puts it, “a couple months before I heard about Claressa Shields, who won the gold in London, I was thinking ‘What is the big thing I could do in my life? How can I inspire someone else?’”
On the path to doing that “big thing,” Dudley had to clear some serious hurdles in the male-dominated boxing world and in her personal life. Her parents didn’t approve of her boxing early on, she faced gender bias both inside and outside the gym, and she had to separate herself from friends who didn’t share her goals. “That really was a big thing in my life. I had to separate myself from those that didn’t plan on being successful,” Dudley says. Many of her challenges are typical of a female athlete. Her role model, Claressa Shields, faced many of the same issues on her way to the Olympics. For Dudley, hardship struck much closer to home. “There was a day that my grandmother and aunt died in a car crash at the same time,” Dudley said. “I really stumbled and it had a large effect on me. It harmed me.” Where others might call it quits – especially at the age of 17 – Dudley draws inspiration. “Every day, I think, ‘What would they want me to do?’ They would want me to go for my dreams. They would want me to be big. They would want to be there.” These days, the gym in Clinton, MD, where she works with legendary trainer Floyd Seymour, has become her home away from home – and it’s become a place of solace. “It’s my happy place,” Dudley says. “When I go to the gym, no matter what’s on my mind, all I’m thinking about is boxing,” Dudley says. And though it might sound contradictory to some, Dudley describes her training as peaceful. “Everyone’s friendly, [there’s] music playing … you just get in your zone.” It’s clear that Dudley is in her zone. Her sights are squarely set on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – and beyond. “My dream is to write a list of goals and achieve all of them,” Dudley says. “Right now it’s the Olympics but after I conquer that, I can conquer anything else.” Right: Naheesah Dudley wears her boxing gear. Photography by Nicole Aguirre
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REX RIOT Electronic Musician
ex Riot gave himself his first tattoo at the age of 16 using a guitar string. He tattooed the symbol for radioactive material on his left hip, never expecting it to last. Eleven years later it’s still there, along with the single dot where he tested the primitive tattooing method on his hand. Believe it or not, Rex Riot, the hard-charging musician, used to be Nicholas Rex Valente, the science nerd. This is Rex Riot in a nutshell, a study in contrasts: a bad boy with brains, an artist and an entrepreneur, and a musician’s musician with a surprising knack for social media and marketing. Given the glow that emanates from Rex Riot, the tattoo could also be taken more literally. Rex Riot is radioactive. Rex first made noise on the EDM (electronic dance music) scene with a dub-step remix of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The track garnered over 30,000 hits on YouTube – more than he ever expected. He followed up with his 2011 EP Luv Machine on Heavy Artillery Recordings, and his most recent EP, Beyond, released in 2012 on Play Me Records. Rex’s biggest break came just this year when Nintendo used his song “Head Vice” for its Wii-U marketing campaign and blasted it across computer and movie theater preview screens around the country. Rex has been doing things differently from an early age. A talented high school student (Rex attended the vaunted prep school Sidwell Friends) he considered attending college as a Physics major, but the thought of enduring four more years of what he describes as the “rote memorization” of formal learning wasn’t something he could do. He had also seen and done more than most kids his age, traveling throughout Asia while growing up and living for an extended period in Kuala Lumpur. Instead of going to college, Rex got a job in a store selling electronic music equipment on commission, a job that filled his time and paid good money.
In fact, it was too much money for a 21-year-old to know how to handle, according to Rex. He battled with drinking, had a pair of run-ins with the law, and nearly lost sight of his dreams. “I was running around buying clothes and alcohol, and a cool car and a motorcycle … just generally being hedonistic and shitty,” Rex says. “For a year I didn’t write a [single] song.” He learned some hard lessons during that time, lessons they don’t teach you in college. “The amount of respect that you as a person deserve has nothing to do with your status in life,” Rex says. “People forget that so quickly. So I think back to those times where I thought I was better than other people and I was making irresponsible decisions.” Some would consider the choice to become a professional musician an irresponsible decision too, but when Rex left the music store to pursue a career in music, it wasn’t much of a choice at all – it was a calling. “I’m not sure if being a musician is something you can want or not want. I think you kind of are a musician or you’re not,” Rex says. “I’d be writing music no matter what I was doing for money. I think anybody in that situation wants to do it for a living because [that’s] less time you have to do other stuff besides what you want to be doing.” With experience making pop and hip-hop beats for other artists, Rex took the skills he’d honed for others and used them to develop his own sound. He also received help from mentors like Greg Lukens, an acclaimed music engineer and Vice President of Washington Professional Systems, the sister company to the music store Rex worked for. “Greg taught me how to listen to things,” Rex says. “Learning how to listen is more important than learning how to do, because if you can listen then you know what to do.” Left: Rex Riot wears the official space suit he purchased from NASA’s supplier. Photography by Nicole Aguirre
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Model, Singer & Artist
nly the greatest talents are known by a single name. Kota is poised to become one of those greats. Recently named the new face of Olay’s "Fresh Effects" campaign, Kota is a quadruple threat of beauty, brains, musical, and artistic talent. Born at Howard University hospital in 1989, Kota navigated a difficult childhood. She grew up in D.C. during the crack epidemic to a mother who was a chronic drug addict. “My mother was the Marilyn Monroe of real women everywhere. Tragically beautiful, I knew her in the days she was really strung out, but she never let me see her snort or shoot something. Losing her when I was 17 was hands down the worst and best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me space for truth at an early age,” she says. Life for Kota was chaotic until her father moved her and her siblings to Fairfax, VA. Modeling since she was 15, Kota was discovered on a family trip to Virginia Beach and got her first big break on a global campaign for Abercrombie & Fitch shot by legendary photographer Bruce Weber. “I never thought in a million years that could happen to me. I was this skinny awkward kid. I couldn’t even afford to shop at Abercrombie,” she recalls. Modeling paid her way through college. To this day, she’s never gone on a casting call she didn’t book. Kota eventually enrolled as a science major at Howard University on a full academic scholarship and planned to go to medical school until a chance jam session with friends in 2010 led her to record a demo. The recording made it into the hands of Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton who featured her voice on “Free,” the closing track of the album Culture of Fear. She later debuted the song at a Thievery Corporation concert on the Brooklyn waterfront in front of 40,000 fans. Now working as a full-time model in Los Angeles, Kota’s days are filled with castings, vocal lessons, yoga classes and recording sessions. Her life would already seem enviable to most, but Kota has her eyes set on a much higher goal. “My goal is to be the voice of a generation,” she says. “I want to help people discover what’s already within them.” Kota radiates positive energy. “You have to be vulnerable to love,” she likes to say. Kota is the kind of person who makes you feel great about yourself. Her sentences are full of compliments, encouragements, and motivational stories, many of which she texts and emails to friends to remind them to go after their own potential.
Kota says the most fascinating part of her job is getting to be an independent woman. “God bless the child that has his or her own,” her father used to say. “L.A. has given me a wonderful opportunity to be myself,” says Kota. She’s open to wherever her career might lead. “I want to live around the world, but for the moment my spirit has called me here. I may eventually live in D.C. again, but for me, this is where I need to be now.” Still, there are a few downsides to living in L.A. “There’s an element of superficiality and sugarcoating that is inescapable. People define themselves by what they do and try to put me in a box,” she says. “It’s frustrating when I’m told I can’t do something when I know I can. Usually I don’t put too much energy into it. I feel like Flanders from The Simpsons when he’s happy all the time,” she says. In an entertainment industry defined by constant rejection, self-confidence is invaluable to accomplishing your goals. “It’s like handing someone your mixtape and saying ‘I have a mixtape. It’s just alright ...’ You have to sell your dream and believe in it, or no one else will.” Kota believes a dreamer is a doer. “What is a dream without action, without fire?!” she says. “A dream is nothing if you don’t work on it.” And work on it she does. Kota was on a trip to Houston once when her car was broken into. Taken from her were her modeling portfolio full of one-of-a-kind polaroids, her computer, backup hard drive, and family photos from her deceased mother. Most people would wallow in the setback, but Kota used it as a tool to jump start her career. “What do I want to accomplish in the next year?” she asked herself. “I want to sign with a modeling agency in New York and L.A., I want to work with an amazing photographer on a new photo shoot, and I want to record with a major producer.” She crossed every item off her list in just two weeks. Even Hurricane Sandy couldn’t set Kota back. Visiting friends near Wall Street when the storm hit, she got a call that Olay wanted her back for a second audition the following day. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. In classic Kota style, she managed to finagle a car to pick her up from New York City and drive her to rural Connecticut, where the last plane for the next several days was taking off for L.A. She made it back in time for the casting and got the job. Now you can see her beautiful face on the back of the April issue of Cosmopolitan, with Kim Kardashian on the cover. Right: Kota wears a dress by BCBG. Photography by Nicole Aguirre
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ERIC SCHULZE Molecular Biologist & Entrepreneur
hat evolutionary principles make Justin Timberlake so sexy? Eric Schulze knows. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and wants to feed you whiskey while teaching you why a hip shake makes you want to bring sexy back. Schulze is the co-founder of Thirst, an organization that aims to redefine the process of learning. Schulze is a science nerd and a social animal, an unusual combination that allows him to analyze every human impulse and use it to his own benefit. His organization turns the human needs for pleasure, love, and entertainment into tools for making complicated science accessible for the rest of us. Essentially, it’s all a trick. Thirst is a vehicle to get audience members to love science, making them more curious consumers of information, all without their knowledge. He’s getting people to order a side of Heisenberg with their vodka tonics, and it seems to be working. Like many creative ideas, Thirst was born out of frustration “about how scientists communicate with the public,” he says. “I was [once] in a lecture by David Baltimore, who won the Nobel Prize, and I realized he was a terrible communicator. He redefined how we saw the world, but he was terrible at communicating his ideas. I just thought it shouldn’t be that way.” Schulze studied at the University of Southern California and fell in with the group Mindshare LA, which has created a wildly successful platform for putting new ideas on stage. “This is where the idea [for Thirst] came from,” he says. “I decided I would apply reassociation. I reassociated learning with flirting and reassociated creativity with going out and having a good time. This is how we’re engineering learning in a new way.” Much of the communication style of Thirst is based on the approach of Dr. Carl Finnegan, Schulze’s idol. “He embodied everything about a scientist. In his short life he inspired wonder about the world around him and made people want to investigate it and change it for the better,” Schulze recalls. Every speaker who gets up on stage at a Thirst event goes through a three to five month preparation before the big event. “We assemble a team of writers and graphic
designers, we meet in person, then we try to get to the counterintuitive aspect of their ideas,” says Schulze. “I want the writers and designers to inhabit the mind of the person giving the talk. I want them to know it almost as well as the speaker.” Part of the appeal of a Thirst talk is what Schulze calls its “Vegas style of learning.” The traditional rules of sitting and listening politely don’t apply. “We tell the speakers themselves, ‘These people do not have to listen to you. You have to earn their attention.’” So if the audience thinks the speaker is boring, they’re free to talk to the person next to them or go get a drink. It’s similar to booing a band off stage. “If you go to see a bad show you’ll let them know, but no one does that in a class. We want them to,” says Schulze. Schulze could be considered a rule-breaker, and that is bound to draw some skepticism. “It has been tough getting buy-in from the science community,” says Schulze. “We had a lot of buy-in from the non-science community, but scientists are the most distrustful, and they just didn’t believe in us at first.” Schulze’s parents were also confused. “They still don’t understand what I do and they think it’s weird, but they’re extremely supportive,” he says. “My mom came to a Thirst event and worked the room like I’ve never seen before.” Schulze’s parents would say he always wanted to be a scientist. His favorite toy as a kid was the encyclopedia. “I would say I was good at science, and I liked it, but I wanted to be an artist,” says Schulze. He had difficulty deciding on a major – biology or art? “I remember thinking, ‘I’ll always have a job if I go into biology.’” So he did. Schulze now works at the FDA, is a consultant for other large organizations like NASA, and was the first person in his family to go to a four-year university. To him, a dreamer is “someone who sees how the world could be and then does everything in their power to design the situation so that outcome is most likely.” For Schulze, Thirst is an opportunity to leave the world “a little bit better than [when] I came,” by awakening in people the desire to learn. “The research says ‘Know thy audience,’ but the truth is ‘Know thy message,’ and if you do, you can find your audience through it.” Right: Eric Schulze wears his signature dapper attire. Photography by Jim Darling
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SKYLER JAVIER Fashion Designer & Firefighter
here is no doubt that Skyler Javier is the hottest designer in Washington: around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to be precise. A firefighter and paramedic with the District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD), Javier is quietly burning up the city’s fashion scene. Javier is Founder and Creative Director of the D.C.-based label Native Danger, which produces a modern mix of street style clothing and accessories for men. Anyone who’s laid eyes on one of Javier’s signature designs at boutiques like Redeem on 14th St., or on his website, NativeDanger.com, might find it hard to believe that he taught himself how to design by buying a sewing machine he essentially planned on returning because he couldn’t afford to eat afterward. Holding on to it long enough, Javier says he was able to put together things that “resembled clothes.” Javier later took a one-hour workshop at Bits of Thread, a D.C. sewing studio, to learn about patterns and construction. He then worked with DURKL, a D.C. fashion brand, and interned with Asher Levine, a decorated New York designer, who offered Javier a master class on the fashion industry and helped shape his taste. Observing Levine’s experience was inspiring to Javier. “Levine went to school for business and then started hustling,” Javier says. “He’s done pieces for Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Black Eyed Peas, six or seven seasons of full lines … he’s just hustled immensely.” Seeing Levine’s rise as a self-taught designer reassured Javier that his hard work could ultimately get him where he wanted to be. But even this fearless firefighter finds the fashion industry scary at times. “Sometimes with this industry, it’s a little daunting because it can be a bit elitist,” Javier says. “I don’t come from formal training and there are hundreds of other people doing the same thing. Even though I have a strong work ethic, that can make it difficult to push forward because you’re thinking all this work is not going to produce or yield anything and being around Levine made me feel like there’s no reason not to try.” No one could accuse Javier of not trying hard enough. Even with full-time employment, Javier still manages to work part-time for his father’s welding company and puts
his earnings back into his clothing line. Javier developed endurance for hard work while working for his father’s company growing up. “My father was a strict guy,” Javier says. “I would be working with my three brothers and we had to get whatever the job was done. I was always the one that was like, ‘We will stop when this is done correctly,’ because if it’s not, we’re just going to have to come back out and do it again … so let’s do this right the first time.” Still early in his career, there’s every indication Javier is doing it right the first time. He’s not only building what promises to be a successful career in fashion, he’s also realizing a lifelong dream. Since high school Javier has dreamed of channeling his love of art into a viable line of work. Leaving high school without a clear path, Javier attended community college to obtain a paramedic’s license and worked for a private emergency response company. Eventually, Javier’s paramedics background helped him enter the DCFD. The decision to become a firefighter was a strategic one. He’d watched his dad work in the same field and was familiar with the flexible schedule that would allow him multiple days during the week to work on his designs. As his career heats up, the Fire Department may have trouble keeping Javier on its payroll. He is preparing for the launch of his first full collection this fall; a move that he says will solidify his transition from someone passionate about design to someone actually plying his craft. Although Javier tends to view his creative work through a practical lens, he still allows his mind to wander. “I like to think that over the last couple of years I’ve learned how to let it float up there when it needs to and then pull it back down to be able to function in reality,” he says. In an industry that thrives on the combination of art and commerce, Javier is finding his path. There’s a glint in his eye and a fire in his belly, and no one – not even the firefighters he works with – is going to put it out. Left: Skyler Javier wears his firefighting helmet and clothing he designed for his label Native Danger. Photography by Nicole Aguirre
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ANASTASIA ANTOINETTE Jazz Singer & Model
he Sunday night checkout line at Whole Foods would be a lot more like the Pleasantville Methodist Choir if Anastasia Antoinette had any say in it. "Life should be a musical. Why aren’t we all bursting into song at the grocery store?” she says. The Houston-born jazz singer grew up singing in church, where her father was the assistant minister and her mother the church youth director. “Church was a judgment-free zone,” she says. “There was never any pressure of ‘maybe they won’t like what I do.’” When the 24-year-old Antoinette opens her mouth to sing, it’s like someone pressed play on a recording of Corinne Bailey Rae mixed with Janelle Monae, both of whom happen to be huge inspirations, and you wonder where they’re hiding the speakers. Antoinette is tall and striking and you can’t help but notice her presence in a room, even if she doesn’t fill the silences with unnecessary conversation. She’s an old soul whose voice matches the era to which her spirit seems to belong. Looking up to classic singers like Billy Holliday for their intonation and the “soft but strong” tones of their voices, Antoinette is overcoming her longtime fear of performing on stage and moving full force toward the release of her first studio album this summer. “It’s intense thinking about getting up there,” says Antoinette. “I get sweaty palms a lot. But once you’re up [on stage] and you’re sharing this gift with people – you see their faces light up and their eyes change. It’s amazing.” Antoinette has come a long way since her days playing in a punk jam band in Houston. She’s now writing her own music for her new album, including a song titled “57,” which Antoinette wrote for her mother on her birthday. “One after one/They multiplied/I’m half surprised that we survived,” she croons. Her mother’s eyes welled up with tears when she heard it.
Antoinette's other songs are mostly about the same thing everyone else writes about: love. A recent 3.00 a.m. recording session in the free-flowing improvisational style of Stargate and Ester Dean produced the song “Conception.” “It’s about accepting a dream-like relationship and trying to convince myself that it’s not a trick or a game – it’s real,” she says. To create her studio tracks, Antoinette listens to a beat or a live musician and if she “feels it” she’ll freestyle and come up with lyrics on the spot or borrow from a poem she wrote on the bus. “Originally I thought songwriting was much different from poetry, but it’s really not. I enjoy writing my own music,” she says. “While other artists are amazing vocalists and extremely popular, sometimes I feel they’re very packaged and polished,” Antoinette says. “They’re definitely higher on the Billboard charts than Fiona Apple or Erykah Badu, but there’s just something to be said about singing from a place of authenticity that can’t be beat.” Carving out a space to share her authentic voice through music might not be the easiest pursuit, but it’s a dream. “There’s no reason not to do what you feel like doing – what you’re passionate about,” says Antoinette. She left Howard University after three years because, as she tells it, “I knew print journalism wasn’t what I really wanted to do.” Some people don’t discover this until it’s too late, but Antoinette isn’t one to waste time. She’s not afraid to ask for what she wants and soon she’ll be on the cover of her own studio album singing her way to her dreams. Editor’s note: Anastasia Antoinette is also Editorial Assistant to Editor-in-Chief Nicole Aguirre at Worn Magazine. Right: Anastasia Antoinette wears a dress from Worn Abroad. Photography by Jim Darling
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ITâ€™S IN MY NATURE
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“It’s In My Nature” is a printed series of 20” x 20” photographs exploring the search for our internal nature through connection with the environment. I first began this project as a way to work through questions of identity, place, and subconscious – this idea of “returning to nature” to look for and connect with what we already inherently know but can’t reach within ourselves. The images are meant to address the ominous yet distantly familiar feeling of self-discovery. Like heavy dreams prior to waking, the meaning of the images seems real but unclear.
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TAKE ME HOME
Photography by NICOLE AGUIRRE STYLING Nicole Aguirre MODEL Nandor Mitrocsak ASSISTANT Anastasia Thomas
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Left: Vest Rock It Again Pants & Bow tie Treasury Shirt Hugh & Crye. Right: Shirt Junction Bow tie Treasury Blazer Rock It Again
wornmagazine.com Suit by Rag & Bone at Barneyâ€™s New York C0-OP
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Chambray suit by Ami, shirt by Rag & Bone at Barneyâ€™s New York CO-OP
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And to understand the inspiration behind Wilson’s post office performance, take yourself back to a figure you probably learned about in fifth grade history class: Henry “Box” Brown. Brown was a slave from Richmond, VA who, with the help of a sympathetic white shoemaker, mailed himself to the free North on March 23, 1849. During the 27-hour, 350-mile journey to Philadelphia, Brown was tossed about and turned upside down in a wooden crate of his own making, marked “this side up.” Though risky, the plan was a success and Brown arrived safely into the care of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, where he went on to become a spokesperson for the Anti-Slavery Society. Wilson, who graduated from Howard University in 2012 with a BFA in photography, grew up just outside of Richmond and has always remembered the story of the abolitionist. “It’s the kind of thing that I think everyone should know about,” he says. “My performance was a combination of my memory of that story and a personal desire for self-agency.”
n April 5, 2012, Wilmer Wilson IV walked into the Cleveland Park post office in Northwest D.C. wearing nothing but a pair of flip-flops, black boxer briefs and over 5,000 self-adhesive postage stamps covering his entire body (with the exception of his eyelids). The strategically placed 4-, 5- and 10-cent stamps made the lanky 23-year-old look like a walking work of cubist art, as if he’d stepped right out of a Picasso painting and was just getting some errands done. He waited in line for five minutes, all the while garnering stares and whispers from customers wondering exactly who this curious man was and what he was doing. When he finally approached the mail clerk, he expressed his intent. “I’d like to mail a package.” “What kind of package?” she asked. “Myself,” Wilson replied. “Baby,” she paused. “You can’t do that.” And just like that, Wilson turned around and exited the post office in the same mysterious manner in which he’d entered. Lest you think Wilson is a postal prankster or a stamp collector gone overboard, you should know he was one of 25 local artists selected to participate in 5x5, a series of temporary public art performances organized by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to coincide with last year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival.
In this context, self-agency refers to an individual’s interpretation of an object after it’s been stripped of any social contexts. Most of us would view a stamp as a means to mail a rent check or send off a birthday card to grandma. It’s a small facet of a larger system that involves post offices, mailmen and the dogs that chase after them. But Wilson hopes, that through his work, viewers will reexamine objects we see as commonplace and in doing so come to a richer understanding all their own. “I consider context heavily and choose materials based on their social implications and consider those implications to the point of engaging with society,” he adds. At his breakthrough two-day performance at last year’s (e)merge art fair, Wilson methodically covered his nearly naked body, first with band-aids and then with “I Voted” stickers, over the course of 6.5 hours for a piece entitled “Bandage/I Voted.” The nude colored bandages, which looked amiss against Wilson’s light brown skin, may have stirred within viewers a desire to help the seemingly wounded performer. Though Wilson’s intent was a bit more ambiguous: “The band-aid is a totem of healing,” he says. “I was interested in what happens when I am covered in them. You don’t know if I’m hurt or trying to heal.” Indeed, there seems to be an undertone of emotional pain to Wilson’s performances. Perhaps his most visually stunning piece to date, “From My Paper Bag Colored Heart,” began with Wilson standing entirely naked in the center of a room at CONNERSMITH, a prestigious gallery in the Atlas arts corridor which began representing Wilson after seeing his (e)merge performance. With nothing but a stack of brown paper bags and a spool of twine at the ready, Wilson slowly blew air into each bag before tying it off with twine and winding it onto his body, starting at the feet. Blow, tie, wind; blow, tie, wind; blow, tie, wind until he was completely engulfed in inflated brown paper bags and light-headed from shortness of breath. “When I finished I stood still for five minutes and I was immediately subsumed by the clapping of the audience,” Wilson recalls. “Then I smashed them with my fist and cut
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them off with scissors. It felt pretty cathartic. It felt really frenzied. It was pretty intense. It was a very challenging performance.” Of course we’re all familiar with brown paper bags and their many uses, from transporting your lunch to school as a child to committing a cruel prank on your next-door neighbor. But to Wilson, the brown paper bag holds a deeper, more malicious meaning. Throughout the 20th century, it was not uncommon for African-American sororities and fraternities to conduct what’s come to be known as the brown paper bag test: the shade of an applicant’s skin was compared to that of a brown paper bag and if the skin was darker, they were deemed less worthy of admittance. Wilson’s performance was a meditation on this act of colorism on members of his own race. “I’m really interested in thinking about the critical mass of certain materials. It seems like the more of one thing you accumulate; the more the pieces change one another’s meaning. During the paper bag performance, there was a certain point where I put enough paper bags on me that it stopped looking like a paper bag and ended up lending another kind of power to the composition.”
WILMER WILSON IV From My Paper Bag Colored Heart (performance) 2012, CONNERSMITH, Washington, D.C. Photo credit: Matt Dunn (Above and below)
That Wilson’s work seems to revolve around racial injustice is only a facet of his art and not the keystone. “I wouldn’t say my work is racially specific. I’m interested in expanding upon entrenched social ideas,” he says. “It might start from a culturally specific place, but it’s my goal to believe in my material enough to make it into a universally applicable statement.” What makes Wilson’s art so impactful? Perhaps it’s the way he manipulates everyday materials in order to express such complex concepts. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s violently challenging our perspectives without using a single word. Or maybe it’s because at only 23, he seems to be nearing his dreams. “I feel like I knew I had contributions to make to the dialogue. And that’s been my primary concern,” he says. “I think we all have desires and I like to think of my work as achieving those desires in a concrete way.” As to what’s next for the budding artist, he’s preparing for a two-month residency in Kingston, Jamaica, through NLS, a contemporary visual art non-profit that provides a space for artists to experiment and connect. His project, entitled “Notes,” will involve a series of works utilizing staples and found party fliers. “I’m interested in aggregating a lot of one thing that’s a compositional thing. I’m going to be playing with densities. It’s going to be thousands and thousands of staples,” says Wilson. He’s also applied to graduate school for a degree in studio art. At print time he’d heard back from Yale (it’s a nogo) but is still awaiting a response from the University of Pennsylvania, the Art Institute of Chicago and California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Just out of curiosity, I asked Wilson where he would have gone if the mail lady were to have accepted his odd request that day on April 5th. Considering that current day, he could just hop on a train and head to Philadelphia no questions asked, what did freedom represent to him now? “That’s a question I’d like to know [the answer to] as well,” he told me. “To some degree completing the skin of my body is freedom in and of itself.”
WILMER WILSON IV Henry Box Brown: Head (5¢) 2012, archival pigment print, 23 x 15 inches, ed. 5 (Left page)
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The view from a helicopter as it circled over one of Mexico Cityâ€™s many urban marketplaces on election day, July 1, 2012.
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spent a few weeks in México last summer in San Miguel de Allende, and north and west of México City. It was my first time exploring México, and I did so with a bit of trepidation, as I had been sternly warned by more than one person about the risks posed by the ongoing drug war. Witnessing the turmoil and unrest brought on by the narcos, young and old alike related stories of their lives in Northern México and how they were afraid to leave their homes. But I was also aware of México's deep connection to its own spirituality. Much of this spirituality manifests as devotion to the Catholic Church. Mexican Catholicism (like many countries in the world) just feels different. To me, the spiritual devotion of the Mexican people was rooted in dreams of a simpler, richer, and perhaps better future.
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A shrine on a hilltop in San Miguel de Allende, one of many sites reflecting Mexicoâ€™s spiritual devotion to the Catholic Church.
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An ex-pat wanders through San Miguel de Allende in a dream-like state.
in the midst Photography by Amber Byrne Mahoney
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1930s slip, Amalgamated, Full Moon brass cuff, Young Frankk
Styling Beth Silverberg Creative Direction Nicole Aguirre Prop Design Morgan Hungerford West Model Gaby Cetrulo
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1920s cotton beaded dress made in France, Amalgamated
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1920s French wedding dress, Amalgamated, V Steps brass cuff, Young Frankk
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Ubud, Bali 52
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1930s slip, Amalgamated, Full Moon brass cuff, Young Frankk
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CALL FOR WRITERS
For the first time, we put out a call for submissions and selected three D.C.-based writers whose work reflects the theme of “dreams.”
Poem by Micah Greenberg
they don’t build barns anymore. the flatscreen would look strange by the saddle stands, weathered as our skin – and our history – erected on the backs of our ancestors, our neighbors, ourselves. we grew what we ate, sewed what we wore, built the houses we lived in, on loan only, from the land we tended to rise with the sun and sleep when we needed to. there was no 9 to 5 until industry invaded – by rail and road. we took sides in the crass contradiction of steel and wheat. we went to market trading – up, it seemed – innocence for opportunity. there is no craft in capitalism. it is fast and unsentimental, it waits for no one, especially not the last generation. we never sit down to dinner anymore, family long since forgotten in favor of iPhones, and iFriends, and I want whatever, whenever, now. when did we go from need, to want, to wanton? where did our manners go? say please and thank you, say grace and mean it. what course will we take next? we hold the wrong knife in the wrong hand, we forget what our mothers taught us. we eat everything pumped with preservatives ironic for how little they preserve of the recipes passed down for centuries, the stories and lessons we would take one-by-one on our tongues. we take takeout and TV dinners instead, we worship an american idol. we don’t sing hymns anymore. they would not fit in the top forty we hear every sunday, syndicated. soul music died decades ago. we search the dial for something we can dance to. we trade emoticons and platitudes: quote, unquote “request” my friendship, and i’ll quote, unquote “accept” it, whether i know you or notice you, or not, tell me you love me in 140 characters or less – i’m counting on it being forgettable, anyway. every name is a nickname, every connection high speed, even our prayers are broadcast and podcast. the bible is an e-book now. i pray we go back to nature and nuture our better selves: sleep shut down restart
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A Hint of Hell and the Pursuit of Paradise
hat are dreams, exactly? As an inquisitive child I was told many different variations of how dreams are formed. Some told me that dreams were the mind's way of ridding itself of unwanted memories, others said it was the subconscious bringing your deepest imaginings to the forefront while your mind is resting and defenseless. The most common hypothesis, and the most interesting in my opinion, is that dreams are symbolic forms of communication with a higher being. I have experienced this symbolic form of dreaming only once in my life. Until now, I have never shared this dream with a single soul or spoken of its impact to anyone. Though I have kept it quiet, it was so powerful that I will never forget it as long as I live. It was fall of 2010. My family and I were living in a spacious but cozy house nestled in a woody area of Fredericksburg, Virginia. We were a naturally happy family, or so I thought, until my mother discovered that my dad was having an affair. He left an email open on his computer discussing a small condo he secretly purchased in Indianapolis (our place of origin). He was waiting for my birthday to pass on the 22nd of October before he planned on announcing his decision to be with a woman he'd known for years. My father was shocked when he found out that my mother, my younger sister, and I had already discovered his heartless plan before he had the chance to sucker punch us and escape. My mother was a receptionist at a local hospital making $12 an hour. My sister was 17 and in her last stages of high school. I was approaching 19 years old, fresh out of high school, and still unsure about where I wanted to go in life. None of us were in a position to support ourselves on the expensive East Coast without my father and his six-figure government salary. To my father's dismay, we grudgingly packed up right along with him in November and were forced to follow him back to our hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. We drove for hours until we reached Dayton, Ohio where we stopped to rest at the home of my great-aunt, whom we hadn't visited in a while. That night, while lying in a quilted queen-sized bed next to my sleeping sister, surrounded by antique figurines and powderpink walls, I had the most symbolic dream of my life. The four of us (my father, sister, mother, and I) are sitting in a circular wooden little room
A confession by Kandace Banks in what appears to be a high tower of a castle. We're playing board games, laughing, and enjoying each other. Out of nowhere, the door to the tower is suddenly blasted open to reveal a group of savage-looking men and women. They barge in and throw ropes around us, making us defenseless, and force us out of our tower with weapons held at our necks and backs. Blinded by tears, we stumble through the castle for what seems like miles and miles. Finally, we are led to a dark door deep underground. A ragged woman kicks it open, pulls us over the threshold to a very narrow canoe bobbing in a muddy river, and orders us to jump in and start paddling. Afraid for our lives, we do as we are told and propel ourselves deep into a dimly lit tunnel, completely forgetting the laughter and games of just a short while before. After paddling for a while, something inside me warns me to check on my father in the back of the canoe. As soon as my head turns, I catch a short glimpse of his facial features; he is looking at his family in front of him with an expression of pure hatred and disgust. This only lasts a split second before he abruptly leans over and plunges himself into the murky brown current of the underground waters. His head never resurfaces. I was the only one who saw what happened. Shock seizes my body. How could he have done such a thing? Why was he looking at us with such loathing? What made him give up on us and leave us alone in such danger? Those questions circulate in my mind. Before I can call out a warning ahead to let my mother and sister know what happened, the tunnel suddenly makes a sharp turn and I am knocked out of the canoe. My eyes open and I am sprawled on my back, staring at an endlessly open white space above me. Instead of rushing waters, I hear the peaceful chirping of birds. I roll over and find that I am completely alone without my mother or sister anywhere in sight. Getting to my feet, my eyes absorb my surroundings: deep green foliage, exotically vibrant flowers, and brightly hued birds fluttering everywhere. I am standing on a clean white path which curves and winds off in front of me, playfully wanting to be followed. I decide that I have nothing else to lose and begin walking. The walk cleanses my body of all tension and leaves me strangely at peace. Before I even
realize itâ€™s over, my feet stop at the edge of a clearing and my eyes are drawn upward. Ahead of me is the most breathtaking and ornate canopy I've ever seen, complete with a white bed and crisp white linens, in the midst of this jungle-like paradise. Sitting under the white chiffon floating from the roof of the canopy are two startlingly gorgeous ebony people. They appear to be brother and sister due to their practically identical facial features. Without saying a word, they instantly make me feel welcome by greeting me with the warmest smiles of brilliantly white teeth. I mysteriously get the feeling that they have been waiting in expectation of my arrival for some time. Slowly, I approach them; they embrace me and relief washes over me. Inexplicably, I know that I was meant to end up here, even though I unfortunately had to lose so much along the way. We pull apart and I look into the girl's amber eyes. They are filled with tears, yet her warm smile does not leave her lips. Slowly, she lifts her hand and opens her palm, and presents a small oval shaped frame of gold to me. A giggling baby is captured beneath the glass. When I look back up into her eyes, I understand that she has lost this precious baby in this picture, and I am here to help her in some sort of way. Then, very abruptly, the scene fades from around me as I suddenly wake up from my dream. I laid in that quilted bed in my great-aunt's house for hours, until daylight, trying desperately to imprint every detail of that dream into my memory. I knew without a doubt that it was a message from a higher being. What was God trying to show me? I vowed that I would do whatever it took to decode that dream and discover the message that was waiting for me. We ended our real-life journey to the Midwest the next day. My family squeezed and settled into the tiny condo that my father bought with the intention of living alone while dating. It was a much older condominium, built in the seventies, with outdated wood paneling in some areas. Our close quarters called for increased amounts of bonding time. We were forced to sit and watch television together, eat dinner while looking at each other's grim faces, and share the single bathroom mirror in the mornings. Eventually, once Thanksgiving rolled around, we actually began to enjoy each other. We started to listen to each other's stories about our day. We laughed while we cooked together. We fell asleep under blankets while watching movies together on the couch.
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Then came Christmas time. Being the incessant observer that I am, I began to notice a change in my father. He was much quieter around the condo. When asked a question, he would give a vacant answer, showing us that his mind was elsewhere. The day before Christmas Eve, he packed up his suitcase and left us a note saying that he found a motel which offered extended stays. He stated that he still wasn't happy, and that he was going to rent a room for a while. He did not come back for Christmas. Months passed without his return. My mother, still unable to find a job in the new city, wept day and night in the bedroom that they had only shared for a couple months. My sister resorted to staying locked up in the tiny second bedroom. I slept on the couch in the living room every night. It became routine for me to retrieve my sheet and blanket from the teeny closet in the hall nightly, set up my makeshift bed on the couch, stare blankly at the ceiling until dawn, then rise early to fold my blankets and be the first to claim the bathroom. My mother was bitter and jumped down our throats about everything. My sister snapped at me if I approached her about anything at all. As for me, I was angry, so very angry. We gave up our lifestyle and followed my father half-way across the country just to get left alone in the end. How could my father have done such a thing? Why did he treat us with such loathing? What made him give up on us and leave us alone after things seemed to be going so well? An epiphany hit me dead in the face. I had asked myself similar questions before, in a dream! I had even promised God I'd do whatever it took to decode his secret message to me! In the midst of all the strife, I had forgotten the dream that had come to me so long ago during our great excursion. Everything seemed to come together then in my mind. That dream was a warning. When we seemed to be happy playing games in that old castle with the wooden walls, my dad was not. He allowed himself to journey along the river partway with us, and then left us at the most inconvenient time. And in the reality of those wooden walls of that old condo, he stared at our backs with loathing while we were oblivious to his unhappiness, and then dove out of our lives when we needed him most at Christmas. I remembered very vividly the conclusion of my dream: my own personal journey to paradise. What did that part mean? Where was I going to go? In summer of 2011, after countless hours of deliberation, I made up my mind to trek back to the East Coast alone. Not just the East Coast, but to the nation's capital. If I'm going to do it, I might as well do it big. It was no easy feat. I had to make arrangements for school, figure out where I was going to live, find a job. The list of obstacles was endless. But the entire time, that dream was at the forefront of my mind. I absolutely knew it was possible. I was hitting dead end after dead end, my mother was telling me that I'd have to stay, but
I absolutely would not give up. It was frustrating to feel it in my bones, yet to have no clear path before me leading me back to the East Coast. I prayed to God tirelessly, and metaphorically beat my own path through the forest of my troubles. Miraculously, in October of 2011, exactly one year after this tragedy began, I was living in Maryland and attending school at The Art Institute of Washington, D.C.
Kandace Banks is a Fashion Retail & Marketing major at the Art Institute of Washington Illustration by Martin Swift
The past year and a half has not been easy for me. I am out here completely alone, sometimes doubting myself when I wind up in tough situations. I have had plenty of tearful and lonely nights. But without that dream, I would not be here. I'd still be an angry young girl sleeping on the sofa every night in a broken bachelor pad. I still have not deciphered what the very end of my dream meant. I have not met any stunning ebony princes or princesses floating atop a canopy. I have not helped anyone find their baby girl. And I am 100 percent positive that I have not enjoyed any calming walks through paradise. But with every new place I discover in the nation's capital, every time I shake the hand of a new connection, every 4.0 G.P.A. I get at the end of every semester, and every time I phone home to my mother delivering news of yet another achievement I made ten hours away from her, I know I am taking one step further along that playful white path of my own little paradise. I am going to find my dream.
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Story by Caleb Logan
A Coffee Dream
storm was beginning outside and I could hear the rain on the window across from my bed as I walked barefoot in my apartment. Soon my feet ceased to move, my lips crept off my glass of merlot, and my eyes focused on the three paintings I kept on the wall: the glowing skyline of my native city of Chicago, a panorama of the Brooklyn Bridge, and a photograph of my dear friend Leila. She was captured in a picture of the L’accueil de Paris, a famous fountain known for its majestic height. She told me that when the sun struck the L’accueil’s porcelain build, it formed one of the most breathtaking monuments in the world. I finished what remained of the wine and soon fell asleep. My dreams began ordinarily and I have no memory of a starting point. I was simply transported into a void of unquestionable imagination and there he stood from the haze. In a gust stood a man with ivory hair. He was firm in stature with an aged face. His eyes were a soft hazel, widened and buried deep in his fluid complexion. He looked at me in anticipation, as if he were waiting for me to pay a bill at a restaurant. I distinctly remember him wearing autumn-brown wingtips and a solid black overcoat that drew out below his knees. And then he spoke:
“Where do you wish to go now?” he said. His voice was low and confident. I couldn’t fathom a response. I had no memory. But I finally found my voice. “I don’t know. Where have I not been?” I said. He gave the slightest expression of a grin and it was then that I noticed his teeth were made of oak. He answered me: “You’ve been everywhere and have seen everything,” he said. “I’m asking where you wish to go next.” I was aware we were outside but did not know where. I saw only the cobblestoned buildings lining the edge of the Earth. In the far corner sat a serene garden, which stood beyond the buildings. The sun then struck his ivory hair and temporarily blinded me. “I haven’t seen you before,” I said, after regaining my sight. “Where do I know you from?”
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He began walking as though he was familiar with the bizarre surroundings and he spoke again. “But you do. You just don’t recognize me yet.” I explored his canvas once more, this time with the hope that it would enlighten me as to his identity. But it didn’t. His unfamiliar wrinkles on his brow, those unknown hands searching for warmth inside his pockets, and his bewitching charisma all were foreign to me. His movements became fluid and I found myself walking by his side. I tried to ask another question as I began to analyze his abstract features more thoroughly. But he cut my words short. “Would you like to go get some ice cream?” he said. “I don’t like ice cream,” I said. “I get a brain freeze every time I eat it, even if I eat it slowly.” I couldn’t tell if I had disappointed him or not until he glanced towards me and grinned. “Ah, that’s right. No ice cream then.” he said. “But I could use some food.” We agreed on hot dogs and found ourselves eating on the shadowy ledge of a fountain. It was at this moment I realized I had not seen a single person or an animal. It had simply been him and me, for as long as I could remember. I studied the fountain’s intervals of water propelling into the brisk air, rippling the rousing pond, and then starting the pattern all over again. At the center of the fountain laid an immaculate porcelain carving of women and children, all in a loving embrace. I looked back to the man and saw he had finished his meal. “Tell me your name,” I said. “Perhaps then I’ll know where I’ve met you.” He turned to face me and removed the strands of ivory hair from his face. ���I don’t have a name. I simply am.” This confused me and I said, “You have to have a name. Everyone has one. It’s what you’re born with.” “This is not true,” he said. “People are created every day without any names. They simply exist. Is this so hard to believe?” “Yes,” I said. “That’s impossible.” The edges of his lips opened and his wooden teeth were perfectly aligned.
“It is the truth though, you simply exist,” he said. “With or without a name, you are who you are. Do you think you need a name to define you?” I sat in silence and thought deeply about his question and concluded that he was correct. A name was simply a title. Then I pondered the question of how my life would be different if I never had a name. Would it be different at all? I thought. I would still exist, I would still write and I would still love. The essentials would still remain. It would just exist without a label. He disrupted my thoughts and sat up. “I am sorry my friend, but I must be going,” he said. “I have a prior engagement I must attend to. But I will see you here again next time.” I sat up and looked at the fountain once more before turning my attention back to him. I secretly thought to ask where he was going but figured if he had not told me then he did not wish my company. “Of course, until next time,” I replied. We shook hands and I felt his cold palms. He grinned again before placing his hands back into the inner linings of his double-breasted pea coat. He turned around and started towards the garden in the corner. The stimulating colors of the garden broadened, as if plucked straight from a painting or photograph. And it was. The garden had grown twice in size, and then this man slowly disappeared into the foliage until he was no more. I woke to the storm hammering against my window. I stood from my bed recalling every instance of the dream. Still woozy from the wine, I walked into the living room, to the wall where the pictures were hung. I concentrated on the one of the fountain, but my feelings were different now. On this viewing, I sent myself into that foreign land, sucked into the crisp air of that beautiful afternoon, and edged my fingers along the aged cracks of the stone fountain. I caught the scent of budding blossoms and felt small in the presence of the glorious buildings surrounding the square. And in this background, I saw the man sitting at a local cafe, silently enjoying a coffee. He had no name. He simply was. And I knew from that point forward that I, too, simply am. Caleb Logan is a fourth year Film Production major at Howard University with a concentration in Screenwriting. Illustration by Donald Ely
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OR TRY By Sarah Scully
Three D.C.-based startups chasing the “human dream” Photography by Crystal Vanderweit
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Dan Berger, Founder and CEO of Social Tables, outside his office on 15th St. Photo by Nicole Aguirre
he American Dream was simple: a steady paycheck, a perfect family, a picket fence. That dream is not dead, but it is different now – at least for city dwellers, and especially in the D.C. startup scene. For the entrepreneurs I talked to – the founders of a meal delivery service, an online marketplace and a social media tool for event planners – that dream is not first and foremost a steady paycheck. This is often what they forgo in the pursuit of the ultimate freedom of owning their time. It’s not that the modern American Dream is unrelated to the classic American Dream. You can certainly see the resemblance. Three truths of do-it-yourselfers then and now were clear from my conversations: necessity is still the mother of invention, family is as important as ever, and it’s all about the elbow grease.
Luxury and Necessity Like many entrepreneurs, Ryan Hansan saw a void – something he wanted that he couldn’t get – and aimed to fill it. Hansan did not have a culinary background when he founded ScratchDC last year – a company that delivers packages of ready-to-cook ingredients with a recipe for customers to follow. He liked to cook but did not like the hassle. ScratchDC was born from his impatience with forgetting an ingredient at the store, the time it took to complete a recipe, and his fallback of take-out.
“Something inevitably comes up,” Hansan said. “Plans change, food rots, money is wasted, and you always end up forgetting something at the store and have to trudge back anyway. Even when you do everything right you still end up paying $9.99 for a jar of fenugreek when you’ll only ever use 1/4 teaspoon.” I had to Google fenugreek – it is a real thing, and a common ingredient in Indian recipes. Now Hansan spends a lot of his free time cooking, and even more of his time helping other people cook great meals from scratch - without having to buy the whole jar of fenugreek. ScratchDC delivers ingredients for meals like Thai green curry and “pretty-much-famous ScratchDC chicken over penne” (Hansan’s words). When I opened my twine and paper-wrapped bundle to make hazelnut crusted tilapia with lemon basil cream sauce and spinach risotto, the recipe started with “Hi there, we’re ScratchDC and holy moly are you in for a treat.” I had never cooked fish before and messed up two steps in the recipe. Somehow it still tasted great. Turns out ScratchDC was something I needed, too. I just didn’t know it until Hansan gave up his shirt and tie and put on an apron instead. For a promising idea, entrepreneurs take on risks and plunge into uncharted markets, sometimes giving up well-paying jobs for unknown possibilities. For Elise Whang, co-founder of luxury consignment site SNOBSWAP, she wanted a trusted place to buy a preowned Chanel bag – so she left the legal profession to create one. For Dan Berger, the founder of Social
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The ScratchDC team prepares ingredient bundles in their National Harbor kitchen.
Photos by Crystal Vanderweit
“We joke that I’m not the CEO, I’m the janitor.” Tables, it was an event planning application tied to social media. He wanted to know where the cute girls would be sitting at a friend’s destination wedding. Sometimes the necessity of a good idea goes beyond individual needs to fill the needs of an industry. Social Tables is changing the event industry because, when it comes to planning social events, “seating is the one thing the planner can’t do for you,” Berger explains. Berger developed Social Tables originally as a seating arrangement application that drew information on guests from social media so an event planner could seat people based on careers and interests, and guests could see who they were sitting next to. It turned out seating arrangements were an invitation to the event industry. Now the company has grown to encompass many more elements of event planning, from invitations to checking guests in day-of. A Venue Mapper allows you to create the event space online, down to the dimensions of each table and placement of the dessert tray; and Smart Seating helps coordinate guests’ seating arrangements by common interests. In the networking-oriented city of D.C., the opportunity was ripe for people who wanted to optimize their time at events. Clients use Social Tables to organize weddings and corporate events. This year, even the Latin Grammys used Social Tables to seat celebrities. At the end of the day Berger is helping people connect through events. “Events are a magical thing,” Berger says, “When you’re creating an event, you’re literally creating an ecosystem.”
The Family Business For Elise Whang, the co-founder of SNOBSWAP, her desire to start a business was informed by something much more personal than profit; it was informed by family. It certainly wasn’t the 1950s image of a stay-at-home mom, but it did involve seeing more of her kids. So when Whang had a one-year-old baby and another on the way, she decided it was the perfect time to pursue her dreams.
As she and her husband prepared for their second child, Whang set a goal of starting a company by her due date. As much as SNOBSWAP is about Whang’s young family, it’s also about the family she grew up with. Whang and her sister, Emily Dang, decided to create a site where people could buy, sell and swap their clothes for other people’s, much like the way Whang and her sisters used to share clothes before moving to different cities. Whang and her sister are also the children of entrepreneurs. “I had this secret desire ever since I was little to own my own business,” Whang says. “Seeing my dad and mom building something – something out of nothing – was so cool to me.” Her parents had a business importing toys from Taiwan, and she remembers as a kid following her father into the warehouse on Christmas Eve one year. From the shelves upon shelves of toys around her she had her pick: a Cabbage Patch Doll. Hansan believes, or at least hopes, entrepreneurialism runs in his veins, too. His father started Capitol Advantage just after Hansan was born, and while he was still in college. The company produced Congressional directories and grew into a booming business. In 2005, The Washington Post profiled Robert Hansan and quoted him saying, “I didn’t start this company because I had a grand idea … I started the company because I needed to support a family.” For Whang, the tradition of entrepreneurship goes back not one, but two generations. The person who really showed Whang the dream of starting her own business was her grandmother. “She opened the first athletic store in Taiwan in an era when women stayed home,” Whang says. When Whang was toying with the idea of SNOBSWAP, she spoke with her grandmother, asking her advice. “I hadn’t launched SNOBSWAP yet and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be a good mom. And she said ‘Kids should not stop you from living your dreams. Kids should see you live your dreams.’”
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(Top) Elise Whang and Vera Wen at 1776 headquarters. Photo by Nicole Aguirre. (Bottom) Elise Whang at Tari boutique. Photo by Crystal Vanderweit
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“I left [The Federal Trade Commission] in March, we launched in April, and I was due in June.” Since its official launch in April 2012, SNOBSWAP has attracted a community of thousands of “snobs” buying, selling and swapping their lightly used designer goods for someone else’s. Some think of it as an upscale e-bay, and the week I met Whang they had facilitated the purchase of a $12,000 Hermes bag. SNOBSWAP makes a profit by taking a ten percent cut of sales, and sellers can list items for free. When I ask her about balancing a young family with a young business, Whang admits it is tiring, but adds that having kids “made me realize how valuable time was. My kids help me prioritize.”
All Work Is Hard Work Whang’s sister, Dang, is quick to make the connection between family and another quality of every entrepreneur and any successful business: hard work. Dang says one of the critical aspects of her and Whang’s partnership is that, “being sisters, we understand each other,” and they can support each other through the ups and downs of starting a company. Whang describes the feeling as similar to climbing a mountain: “You get to the top, you think you’ve made it, and all of a sudden you’re at the bottom of the mountain again. Sometimes you run up the mountain and you get there and realize you’ve run up the wrong mountain.” Every day, Whang says, the sisters “conduct heart surgery [on the website] and put it back together.” Dan Berger of Social Tables also underscores the importance of good, old-fashioned elbow grease. Explaining the daily scramble of running a startup, he says, “We joke that I’m not the CEO, I’m the janitor,” because he is always doing the undesirable fix-up jobs in different parts of the company. Trevor Lynn, who does marketing for the company, adds that he thinks there is some luck involved in a successful startup. By luck he means you can make your own. “Dan does not take the word ‘no’ for anything,” Lynn says. Berger called and emailed conference planners nearly every day for months, asking to present business ideas for The Special Event, an annual events conference in Chicago. Eventually another presenter dropped out and Berger and Lynn presented on content marketing.
of “just learning as we go, spit-balling it and seeing what works.” Of course, a lot more planning and organization go into starting a company than that. “It’s harder than I ever could have imagined. It’s hard work and that’s always been a part of the American Dream,” he says. In Whang’s case – and for the other entrepreneurs – the hard work is worth it for the freedom it brings. Before launching SNOBSWAP, Whang had a successful career as a lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission, but she explains, “Being in the legal field, your time is your client’s time, or your time is the court’s time.”
There’s No “I” in Dream Even as Hansan, Whang and Berger run their own companies on their own terms, they point to broader context and broader support. Berger came to the U.S. at the age of nine, knowing no English. When I ask him about the American Dream he tells me that Americans are just really good at branding the Dream. “I don’t think it’s the American Dream, I think it’s the Human Dream,” he says. I immediately think of Whang’s grandmother and her athletic store in Taiwan. SNOBSWAP and Social Tables have set up shop just a few floors from each other in the new 1776 startup incubator on 15th Street. 1776, which recently received a grant of $200,000 from the city, calls itself a place for startups to gather. The organization has built a collaborative campus on the 12th floor of the building to help new businesses access the resources they need to grow, as well as offering lower rent than individual offices. Over 100 startups now occupy the recently-inaugurated space, filling the tables with laptops, diagrams and sticky notes; the stuff that dreams are made of. Hansan, Whang, and Berger are working to help people enjoy cooking, swap designer clothes, and meet people they connect with at personal and professional events. In the process, they’re filling voids that needed to be filled, following in the footsteps of their families and starting their own, and working hard every day to turn their dreams into realities. Maybe there’s something quintessentially “American” about their dreams, but they’re stories anyone would be proud of.
Hansan adds the importance of experimentation to the importance of hard work. There’s a sense, as Hansan says,
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BACKPACK JAX BIG SAM’S FUNKY NATION
SIERRA LEONE’S REFUGEE ALL STARS
BIG SAM’S FUNKY NATION Fri May 10 / 8:30pm
Led by trombone powerhouse, Big Sam Williams—formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band—Big Sam’s Funky Nation signature “Noladelic Powerfunk” sound combines a rock sensibility with improv-style associated with jazz and the horn-heavy front section that’s the hallmark of big band funk.
URBAN CORPS TRANSATLANTIC HIP HOP FESTIVAL:
BACKPACK JAX AND KLP DANCE CREW WITH SPECIAL GUEST DJ BARONHAWK In partnership with the Alliance Française and Urban Artistry
Thu May 16 / 8pm Iraqi-Cuban/American singing duo Backpack Jax partners with French dance crew KLP for a high-energy performance full of explosive movement and sound followed by an open dance floor with beats by DJ Baronhawk and interactive demonstrations from KLP and DC’s Urban Artistry dance crew.
GLOBAL DANCE PARTY WITH:
ELIKEH, BLACK MASALA & NAPPY RIDDEM Sat May 18 / 8pm
An incredible evening of music that includes Elikeh’s mix of Afro-beat and traditional Togolese polyrhythms; Black Masala’s high-energy sound that combines the flavor of Eastern European brass bands with New Orleans jazz, Latin grooves, experimental indie rock riffs; and the ragga-soul electrofunk sounds of Nappy Riddem.
SIERRA LEONE’S REFUGEE ALL STARS WITH SPECIAL GUEST DJ UNDERDOG Sat June 1 / 8pm
Formed in West African refugee camps, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have enflamed the passions of fans across the globe with their uplifting songs of hope, faith and joy. The subject of an acclaimed documentary film, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were featured on the U2 tribute album, In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 and have performed all over the world including at New York’s Central Park SummerStage, Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival and the revered Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.
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THE W SALON SUPPORTS WOMEN WHO DARE TO DREAM AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Souny West, owner of The W Salon, Lindsey Mask, Founder of Ladies America & Ladies International, and Maimah Karmo, Founder of the Tigerlily Foundation.
The W Salon 6003B Burke Centre Pkwy Burke, VA 22015 (703) 250 - 0800 www.wsalonva.com
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Worn Magazine is a publication of Worn Creative, a boutique agency based in Washington, D.C.